Knape & Vogt modular shelving: The first patent ever for a metal modular system, 1934

knape and vogt modular shelvingknape and vogt historical photosTalk about how a little bit of knowledge can turn your perspective around 180 degrees: I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s and no question, the modular Knape & Vogt shelving like that shown above  was ubiquitious during the period… It was very affordable, and as with wood paneling, it went up in all in … like … every teenager’s bedroom, including mine… Yes, it was so ubiquitous that for the past several decades, I haven’t given it any thought at all, and if I did see it in passing, I would not have given it much respect… BUT NOW, as part of my continuing research into midcentury modular shelving systems, I have learned that Knape & Vogt is the original — it was the first such system to be patented, in 1934. That little bit of information made me snap to.  Knape and Vogt = Cool. Yes: Knape and Vogt modular shelving — with its steel ‘standards’ and brackets — still available for sale today, made in the U.S.A. — is worthy of our respect and consideration for our midcentury houses.

kv shelvingKnape & Vogt standards and shelving are extremely adaptable. Let me count the ways:

  • You can order the “standards” (the tall strips of powder-coated steel — with slots strategical designed to hold shelf brackets, movable all along the standard) in a wide variety of lengths…
  • The standards and brackets come in 6 weight-ratings, depending on your needs — light-, medium-, heavy- and three more super-heavy-duty ratings — The heavy duty standards+brackets are even strong enough to hold a desk top…
  • You can adjust your shelf locations, depths and materials (white? glass? metal? wood? yes) over and over again…
  • There is a decent array of colors, including white, almond, brown, black, and metal finishes.
  • Another advantage: Unlike those tricky, metric European systems that aren’t designed to hit our studs, Knape & Vogt’s standards and brackets are about as easy to install as it gets — you screw the standards into your studs and you are ready to rock and roll.
  • Finally: The KV standards and brackets are not terribly expensive — for example, 10 regular-duty standards are just under $80… the brackets aren’t too expensive either.

You know what? I am really needing to get some sort of modular system for a narrow wall in my husband’s office — to hold the small flat screen TV, some TV component thingie, a lamp, and maybe some tchotchkes. I just don’t have the time to wait out a vintage Cado or whatever that’s likely “almost” what I needs (and then fork over hundreds of dollars and then wrangle the metric). Instead, I think I am going to use KV standards and brackets, probably in brown — and use super nice wood for the shelving. It will kind of look like the unit above (the photo with the chair and the dog). Hey, I might even be able to hack a shallow cabinet onto the standards. We’ll see…

knape and vogt modular shelvingI do wish the Knape & Vogt website were more modern and retail-customer-friendly. But, their site does get the job done in terms of delivering info on all the different products available. You can order right there, or cross-shop at other online retailers, if you want to see if you can get an even better deal. Either way, KV is a classic choice, with a pedigree. I am now an official fan.

historical photos provided to Retro Renovation by Knape & Vogthistorical photos provided to Retro Renovation by Knape & Vogt


And note: I now have an entire Category going: Storage & Shelving. You can check out my growing list of research into midcentury modern wall unit systems there.


  1. Caroline K Bawden says:

    I have some Knape & Vogt pilaster shelf brackets dated with a Patent date of 1918 so apparently these were made even before the 1930s.

  2. Christine W says:

    Just ordered some- wish me luck! Had to order from 3 different online sources to get all the pieces. I wish their website was more user-friendly and designed with consumers in mind.

    1. Christine W says:

      Not having a lot of luck with these. The brackets won’t stay in the standards. Wondering if the brackets got bent in shipping. Has anyone else had a similar problem?

      1. pam kueber says:

        I have tons of these, and they all work, so I don’t know what to say. I do knock ’em in with a rubber mallet, just to ensure they’re in. They sit tight.

        I guess I would contact the company if you are having issues….

  3. Estelle says:

    I love hearing about ‘golden oldies’ (companies I mean) that are still going strong. So many of the good old companies have gone bust now. Either that, or completely changed their product range and shelved the old ones, pardon the pun…

  4. wendy says:

    my mom has an interesting set of standards for the shelves she put in our family room in 1978. At the point that most standards end, about 18″ off the floor, they angle off the wall and down to meet the floor. She said she got that style so they’d look more built-in. I’ve been trying to find an image/website the last couple of days to show you, but have been unsucessful.

    I hadn’t thought about them in years, but this post got me thinking I’m gonna have to get those whenever she decides to sell the house!

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